Australian Sri Lankan volunteer, Chat shares his experiences volunteering for the SLWCS

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"The SLWCS programs start with a balanced perspective, its ethos in allowing humans and animals to both win is its core admirable character. This is what sets it apart from other experiences. It finds practical solutions to sometimes very complex problems." Chathuranga (Chat) Bandaranayake, Australia

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Chathuranga (Chat) Bandaranayake
Australia
December 2019

I am a Sri Lankan Australian by citizenship and by birth. I was born here in Sri Lanka and have lived in Australia for 27 years. I have come back to Sri Lanka often but this is the first time I have searched for something that I can be a part of, learn about my land and contribute in a humble way even for a short time.

When I looked on the internet, it was very hard to find programs like this in Sri Lanka. The few programs that was here, the details were lacking, including certifications and endorsements from both the government and private sector. A lot of volunteering programs that are around, on the surface looked positive but lacked the credibility or even the depth in which one could see it was making a meaningful difference.

The corporate support for SLWCS and the endorsement from the UNDP provided the credibility for a program of this nature to be something I wanted to participate in.

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Before arrival, one feels apprehensive about the decisions and the experience I will face. But from the moment I spoke and subsequently arrived at the field house, I felt instantly home. To say the staff here is magnificent is to sell it short. They are dedicated, passionate, kind, homely, nurturing, fun and engaging. In the time I have been here, the field house has always been filled with laughter, joy and smiles. Within hours, we are more than strangers coming together for an experience, we were family.

The staff here, know their mission, they are always the first up in the morning and the last to sleep. They watch over us as their own and ensure that nothing is missing. In my one week, I have nothing but admiration for their dedication, respect and courage.

What is impressive is that from the drivers to the staff at the field house has a deep understanding of the animals in the local area, environment and the challenges of managing the local community and the environment.

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SLWCS Field Scientist, Chathuranga explaining how much information can be gathered by studying elephant dung.

The field work in the program that each volunteer undertakes is real and not light on. You deep dive into each aspect of the program. From clearing weeds out of 150 tree orange grove, analyzing poop samples to talking with the local community about elephant interactions, behaviors or incidents. That is enriching and rewarding itself.

In a world where, every organization faces the challenges of transparency, the grassroots level program and the people within it provide a real experience. The value of the knowledge I have gained, I will take with me to tell my friends, family and my wider networks. I have already done that with my social media channels.

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In my week here, I have seen elephants in the wild, other flora and fauna. The problems that come with elephant and human conflict, the challenges of rural life, the problems with subsistence farming, including the degradation of ground water through the use of pesticides, the lack of infrastructure and social problems is enlightening.

The work carried out by the team at SLWCS can only be described as a powerful tool that has tremendous potential. I would encourage the organization to continue to be a shining example of setting an example to local government and people of the power of that tool and transparency.

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In my very brief time, my life has truly changed in my awareness, engagement and passion for what is being done here, the biodiversity of Sri Lanka and the bond with the local people. This is what it can do to one individual who had some experience of Sri Lanka and in having the privilege of being born here but also have the advantage of another land. The volunteers I have been with also share the same thoughts and passions but without starting from a homeground advantage.

I am grateful and I will certainly come back, along with friends I will send along the way. In the hope I see this dream become larger and more engaging.

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Two Chats…

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For information on the SLWCS Volunteer Program please visit: https://www.slwcs.org/volunteer or email us at: info@slwcs.org

SLWCS Staff and Volunteer shirts sponsored by elephantea

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!

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